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Rebecca Alexander: "o universe, send us an eclipse and shake us to our senses" (Photo: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

Ess — Dash — En

write it like a name of god
and hide the heat at its heart
hill it up with dense and peaty darkness
pile it high with thunderhead clouds
over and over it returns eternal

some send up prayers by the schedule it sets
and herd the stones of their field in adulation
all that’s growing on this earth requires it
it goes on shimmering as the scale teeters
on a fulcrum between satiety and devastating excess
overwhelmed, the vitreous planets of my eyes
shutter and batten against it

in every age the clattering, blithering despots
boast of unleashing a power to outshine it
while their people famish on a diet of grass
and murder pain with poison
if once upon an ancient time
two warring nations witnessed nighttime at midday
and took it as a sign to drop their weapons and join hands
let history for once repeat a wise decision —

o universe, send us an eclipse and shake us to our senses

Forgotten in the Forest

two years since she was taken
the girl is chosen for betrothal
wrapped in elaborate machinery and adorned
with a tripwire and a timer beneath her garment

all those months they thought
that she was chanting verses learned by rote
her mind and hands were deft
and building their undoing

when she pulls the cord
the dark cloth that covers her blows skyward
releasing red-billed weaver-birds
in a roiling feathered cloud

a multitude shrilling over the marketplace
back toward the captors’ compound
where the shadow of their wings brings endless dusk
and with it ghosts

she has reset the clockwork at the heart
of the device to trigger the hive
the air teems with an insurgent hum
as the swarm gathers and homes in

honey seeps balm through every crevice
of the mud walls of the camp
a languorous sweetness disarms
the abductors who have not already vanished

snakes hang luminous as lanterns from the trees
or map a pathway in the dust below
for the girl to lead the others out of the forest
and into the next uncertainty

do we think the man reclining on his cushioned seat of power
did what he could to find and free them?
ask the spiders who know his lassitude so well
they could have stitched his gilded slippers to the floor

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